Goessel students will benefit from more laptop computers and seamless wireless Internet service when they return to school Aug. 23. USD 411 Board of Education approved July statements of $89,000 for these and other expenditures at their meeting Monday. The board also approved the 2012-2013 budget with a slightly lower tax rate, down less than one-tenth of 1 percent, for the coming year.
“If you look at the numbers we have here in front of us, we look to be in good shape,” board president Dan Miller said. “Next year might be another issue, but for us the next fiscal year looks to be a positive one.”
School board treasurer Chet Roberts made several points in his budget presentation to the board, including note of the fact that assessed valuations in the district went up approximately $350,000 this year. This increase resulted in more tax money for the school.
“This is important because we are a poor district,” Roberts said. “We get a lot of state aid which shows up in our supplemental general fund . That is pretty important for us.”
Roberts also said the district looks to spend $8,485 per student in the coming year.
Parents paying, or not paying, student activity fees raised concern among several board members.
Principal Scott Boden said activity fees set at $10 per student, per activity, with a cap of $50 per student or $100 per family, were instituted last year with some success.
“We intentionally set our fees lower than any of the other districts around so that it would not be a burden on families,” he said.
However, Boden added that at the end of last school year, $400 in activity fees were not collected. He asked the board for direction on how to handle the situation this year.
“I know I had to max out our $100 to pay for my children to participate,” board member Darla Meysing said. “I think it is only fair that everyone should have to pay in order for their children to be able to play.”
Board member Kelly Booton agreed that there should be some accountability for the parents.
“We patterned our activity fees after what Hesston does,” Boden said. “They have a pay-to-play policy, meaning that children can practice with their teams or activity groups, but they cannot compete if activity fees have not been paid.”
Board member Maynard Knepp expressed concern regarding hardship cases where it might be no fault of the child if parents are simply not able to pay activity fees.
“I think it sets a very poor atmosphere for education if we start singling out kids whose parents do not have the resources to pay,” Knepp said. “I would feel much better if we gave the administration the flexibility to work with families and find resources to help them, if needed.”
Fast said there were plenty of community resources and school support groups that could provide funding for activity fees.
“This should not be a punishment for children,” he said.
Board clerk Patsy Schmidt said it would be helpful if the board established a written policy for activity fee payment, so enforcement would not be a subjective issue.
Boden said he would draft a letter to send to all students and work on writing a school policy for activity fee payment.
In other business:
- Board members approved the partial retirement request from custodian Londell Duerksen. He will reduce his hours to part-time at the end of October. Custodial hours will increase for Donna Spoonmore and a part-time position filled by Morris Ewert will begin at that time. Duerksen has served the district full-time for 30 years.
- Ann Thiessen received approval from the board to fill the position of additional driver for the district. She will deliver a special education student to Hillsboro every afternoon. Tim Goertzen will drive students from the high school to vocational-technology classes in Newton.
- James Wiens reported on state school board activities and mentioned the need for the district to consider possible bond project ideas that may need to be started before a more conservative legislature at the state level closes school funding opportunities.